DID THE WITNESS SEE THE KILLING IN POTOCARI?
Former soldier in the Dutch Battalion confirmed at the trial of Ratko Mladic that on 13 July 1995 he saw the killing of a Bosniak man from Srebrenica in Potocari. The defense contends that the Dutch soldier didn’t witness the murder because his evidence today diverged from his previous statements
In July 1995, when the Bosnian Serb troops headed by General Ratko Mladic entered the enclave, and thousands of refugees sought shelter near the UN Dutch Battalion compound in Potocari, Paul Groenewegen was a soldier in the UN Dutch Battalion stationed in Srebrenica.
Groenewegen has already testified five times about his experience, primarily about the events on 12 and 13 July 1995. At the trial of Ratko Mladic, prosecutor Abeer Hasan read out the summary of the witness’s statement based on his previous five testimonies.
In the enclave, the witness saw Bosniaks with infantry arms. According to him, they were not soldiers but civilians defending their territory. After Mladic’s troops overran the enclave, a number of refugees were allowed to enter the Dutch Battalion compound, the witness confirmed. Nevertheless, most of them remained outside the compound.
On 12 July 1995, when the Bosnian Serb forces reached Potocari, the Dutch ‘blue helmets’ set up a corridor between the refugees and the VRS soldiers. That day the witness saw men being separated from women and children and refugees boarding buses to leave Potocari. The witness estimated that about 400 men were detained in ‘a half-built house’. As he said, the refugees didn’t leave Srebrenica voluntarily. Most of them were then forced to leave Potocari too.
On 12 July 1995, Groenewegen witnessed the murder of a Bosniak: the man was surrounded by three uniformed Bosnian Serb soldiers, and was shot in the head by one of them. According to the witness, General Mladic was in Potocari on both 12 and 13 July 1995.
In the cross-examination, Mladic’s defense counsel Branko Lukic tried to get the witness to corroborate the defense case that the refugees from Srebrenica had left voluntarily. The defense counsel also wanted to confirm that the Dutch Battalion soldiers actually helped to evacuate the refugees and prevented the ‘stampede’ as the refugees got on the buses. The witness remained adamant that only ‘one group of refugees’ left Potocari willingly on the first day. Everybody else was forced to do so, the witness maintained.
Finally, general Mladic’s defense counsel told the witness that he actually ‘didn’t see’ the murder he described in his evidence. In his previous testimony, the witness spoke of four Bosnian Serb soldiers who all wore different uniforms, only one of whom was armed. Allowing the possibility that his memory may have faded a bit, Groenewegen at first remained adamant that there had been three soldiers, but later he admitted he couldn’t say ‘either how many of them there were or if all of them were armed’. The witness was sure that he saw the killing of the Bosniak.
Groenewegen continues his evidence tomorrow.